Bargain! BARGAIN!! – Or is it?

BOOK BARGAINThis special offer (absolutely genuine by the way – my photo taken on actual book cover) is not a bargain – obviously. However, not all fake  ‘bargains’ are as easy to spot. Many do not even scream ‘bargain’ at you. They just offer themselves in a way that we have been trained to assume is a ‘bargain’. Even this blatantly wrong bargain sticker would still draw the customer to look at the goods

Come on woman! I hear you say – what are you getting at?

Well, I am an inveterate checker of  ‘price per 100g / kilo’ at the supermarket, if I weren’t I would have frequently paid over the odds per weight by going automatically for the ‘multi-pack’ or the larger size – but it isn’t always the cheapest option! [And getting duped into paying more than I need, annoys me!]

‘Take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves’

Recently I have noticed ‘Family Value packs of Carrots’ at 6p/kg over loose carrots. Large packs of mushrooms marked ‘special’ at 15p /kg over loose mushrooms and broccoli (or calabrese) vacuum-sealed in plastic, also at a reduced price, that was still more than the loose per kg.

Away from the fresh produce and onto the packed goods: Multi-packs of fruit-juice, that you might reach for, suddenly 80p over the price of the individual ones – when they have a special on singles but not the multi-packs. Specials on small boxes of cereal / tea that make them cheaper per 100grams than the large boxes of the same, again, by having reductions on one size only. If the goods inside the package are being reduced – then be honest with it and reduce them across the range!

I have no problem with the supermarkets putting down the prices of the smaller packs – indeed I often feel that those who have to buy small-and-often due to finances or usage or space difficulties ought not be over-penalised for their need to buy smaller. (Whilst taking into account that packaging for small quantities probably costs almost as much as packaging for large – yet is frequently disproportionally charged for)

The question is – who is it that are being targeted by the supermarkets when they flag-up these ‘spurious’ special offers?

OK, so you might say it is those with an eye to a bargain, but you can look at  it another way, they may be someone who needs to watch their pennies.

However, if you combine that with someone who lacks the time, or the peace and quiet, to read the price per 100g / kg and compare – the ‘special price!!’Family value!!‘multi-pack!!‘ ‘larger box!!‘ – is mainly going to catch the harassed shopper for the family.

Someone squeezing in the shopping after work and before getting an evening meal together. Someone with children in tow. Someone who cannot spend too much time shopping as they have dependants to care for. Someone who has to get the shopping and be back to the bus-stop before the bus leaves*. (*Rural readers will understand this more than urban)

 ‘Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish’

There are other costs to consider when you head off  to shop at the supermarket too. Unless you are highly organised, or live within walking distance of the big supermarket, the trip to get something you need, but forgot, can cost you dear. Unless your one trip into town makes sure you really have everything –  when you nip back a couple of days later for the item you forgot you will  be paying well over the odds – fuel prices being what they are!

How useful, how nice if you could just pop along to the corner / village shop and pick it up there?  Well, you can if the little shop is still open, and to keep the little shop open we all need to make sure we do SOME of our weekly shop there, every week.  They can’t be expected to stock the esoteric and exotic (as everything has a use-by date now-a-days) but they usually have all the basics and staples that most of us buy on a regular basis anyway, and can supply other things if there are regular firm orders for them.

Do you know where my best bargains were to be found last week? In my local post-office stores! There, two of the items I buy every week were on special offer. Real special offers. Orange juice at two boxes for £2 (where they are usually £1.19  each) and sliced pineapple (to go with the delicious Cornish Bacon Company gammon I buy there too) at 2 cans for £1 instead of 62p each, plus I didn’t have to drive into town and back to get them (average fuel cost: 6miles = £1.00) and shopping locally helps to keep our local shop going and our village community alive – making it worthwhile even if I hadn’t saved extra. Win – Win! Much better than just doing the supermarkets!

Well, what do you think?

Where do you live? Do you have a local shop?

Do you love or loathe the supermarket ‘bargains’?

Do share – you know I love to hear from you 🙂

P.S.  It is one of our WI campaigns too – shop local!

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January Magic – inedible to delicious

What fruit can you only buy in and around January? What? You want another clue. What fruit tastes bitter and inedible but makes a delicious breakfast accompaniment when turned into a preserve? Ah Yes! I’m sure you have got it!

In this day and age you seem to be able to buy any fruit at any time of the year, providing it has been shipped far enough, however, miss the Seville orange season and you are stuck! Unless, of course, you have some in the freezer. Which is what happened this week. OK, so I know it is January, but the husband pointed out a couple of weeks ago that he was opening the last jar of marmalade. Unbelieving, I looked. He ( for once) was right. Now I knew I had some Seville oranges in the freezer and, being a good girl and rotating the freezer stock, I decided to make the marmalade with these and then buy more to put in the freezer for when this batch of marmalade ran out.

To my surprise I hadn’t got my marmalade recipe on this blog yet.DSCF0109 Well, this may be because it isn’t, strictly, my recipe. It is, in fact, the traditionally-made recipe from a good friend, that I adapted to make in my microwave. However, unlike so many of the other recipes, I cannot make this into short-time short-cut recipe in the microwave as the fact is the segments of orange have to boil in sufficient water to cover them and then this must be reduced with a good rolling boil after the sugar is added.

However, there are the usual benefits of no sticking to the pan or constantly stirring a steaming pot. So here goes.

Ann & Fiona’s Microwave Marmalade recipe

For 5 one pound jars of the golden stuff  DSCF0096

2lb of  Seville oranges and 1 lemon
1.5 lb jam sugar
2lb granulated sugar
walnut-sized nub of butter
1 litre water

1.   Wash the fruit in very hot water to remove wax and dirt.
2,   Quarter the oranges, cutting down and then across
3,   Cut the lemon in to 8 pieces
4,   Place in very large pyrex or similar heat-proof glass dish (3litre size)
5,   Pour over 1 litre of water boiled in kettle.
6,   Heat on full power in MW until boiling. (About 10 mins)DSCF0102
7,   Simmer for another 10 mins – or until the inner peel looks translucentDSCF0105
8,   Strain through a colander saving all the liquid, squish all juice from fruit, then allow peel to cool.
9,   Using a knife skim-slice off the membranes and pith from the outer peel of the orange segments
10, Place the orange segments into a food-processor, add about a tea-cup-full of the juice and chop until the peel is of the desired fineness (if you want very little peel or thin strands of peel omit this stage, just select the nicest peels and slice very thinly with a sharp knife)
11, Place cut peel and all the juice back into the large glass heatproof dish and add the sugar – stirring well. DSCF0106
12, Heat on full power until bubbling – about 10 – 15 mins – stir well then add the nub of butter (this helps prevent ‘foaming’ and makes a clearer marmalade)
13, Heat on full power for 5 mins then for 5 at medium (half power) to prevent boiling over DSCF0112
14, Test for set (see here), teaspoon of marmalade onto a cold dish, put back into the fridge. Continue to simmer the marmalade while this cools.
15, If set is achieved (test portion  ‘wrinkles when pushed with finger and is sticky’) then prepare jars. If not – continue simmer until set achieved – test every 5 mins.
16, Prepare jars for potting up (see here) and fill. Cover with a jam-pot cover and elastic band. Label when cool and ENJOY!

I’ve now been out and bought enough Seville oranges, with accompanying lemons, for three more batches and dropped them into the freezer, each bag containing 2lbs of oranges and one lemon.

There’s no mass-produced alternative to beat home-made marmalade!

Do you make your own?

Do you have a favourite recipe – there are so many – some without Seville oranges at all!

Do share, you know I love to hear from you

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Why a dishwasher could be the healthy option

HOORAY for the dishwasher! I know not all of us can afford one, or feel we need one as there are not so many dishes to do, but I, for one, would miss my dishwasher more than my washing machine. DSCF0094 crop

Now this isn’t just because I am lazy (moi?) or that I think there are better things to do with my time than wash and and dry dishes, but because I am convinced that dishwasher use is better for the health of the family as a whole.

I remember a time before I had one, and talking to a friend who’d had one for over a year. She said she was sure her family, including two children, had had fewer infections of any kind, including colds, since she’d been using the dishwasher. It sounded almost silly. I mean.. you catch a cold by air-transported viruses, don’t you?

After we got ours, which with 8 people in the house was an absolute godsend, I was minded to agree. Those childhood tummy bugs that children pick up in school (you know the ones that are ‘going round’, if one boy came down with it… that seemed to be it. Just the one boy… we didn’t all follow on.

You may recall my plea in a previous (very popular) blog for understanding about the importance of putting the LID of the toilet seat down before flushing (click here to read if you missed it). (No, not the old chestnut of male versus female, SEAT up or down.. but the scientifically backed need to put the LID DOWN to prevent an aerosol of faecal-carrying moisture being puffed up into the bathroom) When following up on the research on that I came across the evidence for the most germ-laden part of the home … and thought that one day I’d blog this too. Today is the day.

The kitchen sink / work-surfaces / chopping boards /cloths and sponges ARE THE MOST DANGEROUS GERM-RIDDEN PLACES IN YOUR HOME.

Why? Because we bring dangerous bacteria into our home and usually work on it in our Kitchens.  We ought to be aware of the dangers of raw meat by now – we are told often enough. Only this past summer there was a campaign telling us NOT to wash our chicken as it could ‘splash’ the salmonella all around the kitchen sink and surrounds. (having told us that most chicken meat was contaminated with salmonella but was fine to eat as long as it was cooked properly)

We also bring vegetables into our homes. The danger here lies in the fact that these have been GROWN .. in SOIL.  It is the bacteria clinging to them from the soil that provides the danger here, and, of course, we have to wash our vegetables.

All in all this means that our kitchen sink areas are not clean areas in terms of bacteria, in fact research shows they are probably worse that the lid of the toilet! And you wouldn’t clean your cups and plates and leave them to dry there  … would you?

So is the kitchen sink the best place to wash up your dishes? Is the sink-drainer the best place to stand them to dry?

Add to that the fact that to kill bacteria the washing-up water has to be hotter than  your hands can stand and you can see that a dishwasher has certain advantages. Washed in very hot water then heat dried – dealing with those pathogenic bacteria – especially on the hotter cycles. This goes not just for your crockery but also for your chopping-boards – harbourers of lots of bacteria according to the studies. It seems most people just do not have a different board for each use (colour coded) .. or clean them properly. I find it best to have a number of the plastic ones, using them for the different things, then just put them all in the dishwasher for a proper clean when I wash the dishes from the meal they were used to prepare.

Talking about drying-up… one of my pet shudders – the use of a tea-towel as a hand-drying cloth and a dish-drying cloth! A good way to spread bacteria around. There should always be a dedicated hand-drying towel, distinct from the dish-drying cloth, so that the dish-drying cloth is only used to dry clean dishes (Nor should either  be used as a serving cloth to hold plates of food). Research shows drying-up with a tea-towel to be the worst option – better to let them stand and air dry (as long as what you are standing them on is bacterially clean!)

Cloths and sponges are used to wipe up spills and splashes – that is their job, and as they also usually reside in or near the sink also pick up these bacteria.. and a damp, warmish environment, with ‘food’ from the spills, those ‘few ‘ bacteria will multiply into a veritable smorgasbord of bacteria that we then spread all over out work-surfaces when we wipe them down. The manufactures of bactericidal wipes would have you snatching these out and using them at every turn.  This is all good for their sales, but not necessary. Traditional cloths, a fresh one daily, the previous day’s dropped into a solution such as Milton sterilizer, until you have sufficient for a hot wash, will do just as well.

I’m not a great believer is banishing all bacteria from the home environment. I do believe that we need to meet these to keep our immune system in condition, but simple ways to prevent some of the nastiest bugs getting a grip on us is sensible. So I say. HURRAY for my Dishwasher … and, like my friend before me, I do think it helped keep the bugs from spreading within the household.

Do you have a dishwasher? What are your observations?

Do you have an un-sung household appliance that you’d like to praise?

Do share, you know I love to hear from you!

 

 

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A Taxing Matter for the New Year

fireworks Cole Vassiliou
Image courtesy of Cole Vassiliou

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  

Here we are and here is the first blog of the new year … and I have to bring up the spectre of  TAX.

Do you think Amazon* should pay their taxes? Of course you do! Well, the EU have closed a loophole that Amazon and others were using to undercharge, and so underpay, the VAT on some goods – ebooks in particular. As from January 1st Amazon must charge the VAT rate for ebooks in the member state the ebook is bought in.

Let me explain… Amazon has its EU servers in Luxembourg – and has been charging the customer only 3% VAT on ebooks as this is the ebook VAT rate in Luxembourg. *(As do Apple, Google and Nook so this applies to them too)  They reasoned that they were charging the VAT rate where the commodity (ebook) was Sold –  ie by Amazon/Apple/Nook etc  in Luxembourg.

Now that it has been ‘clarified’ Amazon has added on the VAT rate applied in each of the member states to the price of the ebooks as listed.

OK? Umm?

Well, this means that all the ebooks on Amazon sold in the UK will now have 17% added to them to bring them up to OUR 20% VAT rate for ebooks. (I presume this is happening on Nook and Apple too but do not have the personal evidence to draw on)  Now this does not only apply to Amazon, so prices will have risen across the board and even if it is sold by a non-VAT registered outfit (earning too little to deal with VAT) it will still have to be price-matched with Amazon if they want their books to be available there as well.  So it will mean a price increase, unless the author/publisher can absorb the increase.

If you are like many of the large publishing houses who have set their ebook price as almost as high as their paperback price – perhaps you could. However, if you are like most individual Authors, or are published by a small publisher (an Indie Publisher), then you have usually set your ebook at a reasonable level, much lower than the paper-back price, that gives you a reasonable return and the customer a great deal.  So the individuals and the Indie publishers won’t be able to absorb the VAT increase and as we are all used to ebook prices being very reasonable, this may hurt a bit!

skos front for ppI just  wonder why ebooks aren’t rated the same as paper-books. Consider this – books – paper-books – are zero rated in the UK. Why do you think that is? Think of the other things that are zero rated. Food (excluding sweets, cakes etc) Water, Children’s Clothes and Footwear,  certain Safety Equipment, Power, Ship-building, Helicopter and Aircraft making ….  all thing important to the health, well-being education or protection of the people.red one

However, it transpires, that ebooks are designated as a ‘supply of a service’ not as a book.  This seems very odd to me, the CONTENT of an ebook is the same as the content of the paper-book. Perhaps it is because if you buy an ebook from Amazon they have the ability to ‘take it back’ if need be – and this makes it a ‘supply’ rather than an ‘item’. Even if this is so then not every country sees it this way.

It seems that it is only Germany and the UK that treat ebooks to the full VAT rate. In Luxembourg it is 3% , France it is currently 5.5% , Italy is reducing their ebooks from the standard rate down to 4% and Malta likewise but down to 5% – the latter two to match their paper-book rate.

InAngel Bug Cover Ultimate the UK they say they have no intention of lowering the ebook VAT rate and warn that ‘harmonisation’ may end up with printed books having to pay the lower rate too (instead of zero) A warning that has upset the publishing houses and one that would also upset readers.

There doesn’t seem to have been much about this in the general press which is why I’ve chosen to write it in this blog. At least now, if you go to buy an ebook in a series and the price has ‘jumped up’ from the last one you bought, you’ll know why – and it will probably be by 17%.

Now, we only have to hope that Amazon/ Apple/ Nook PAY those taxes 🙂

Had you heard about this change in VAT rates for ebooks?

Do you think all books (electronic or paper) should be zero rated as being ‘good for us’?

Do let me know what you think – you know I love to hear from you

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